Tuesday, March 8, 2016

An Early Road: Fort Wayne to Tiptonsport

(Fort Wayne Monthly “Along the Heritage Trail with Tom Castaldi” - December 2011, No. 85)

John Tipton moved the Indian Agency from Fort Wayne to Logansport, Indiana, in 1828 and set up his office in Alexander Chamberlain’s large log house on the south side of the Wabash River across from the mouth of the Eel River. Chamberlain is remembered as having erected the structure to accommodate travelers along a trail that extended all the way from Terre Haute to the junction of the Little Wabash River at Huntington then on to Fort Wayne and down the Maumee to Lake Erie.
Benjamin Stuart a twentieth century Wabash Valley historian noted in a book he published 1924, that a line of stagecoaches was making regularly scheduled trips around the year 1828 between Fort Wayne and Terre Haute. A glance at our Indiana maps of the 1830s makes it clear that this route connected the National or Cumberland Road at Terre Haute giving it national significance.
Roads such as this one might better be described as “openings” which enabled the traveler to keep the track and not get lost. The roads were meant to serve the immediate necessities of the times, improved by bridges which may be nothing more than several logs, sometimes halved, set in a creek dedicating a larger hollowed-out log set in the center allowing water to pass through as a culvert.
H. S. Tanner produced an 1833 map of Indiana for the New Universal Atlas and likewise S. A. Mitchell prepared his in 1834 which was reproduced in Logan Esarey’s History of Indiana. Both indicate a road connection between Fort Wayne and Terre Haute was made through the wooded landscape that was Indiana. The two maps show the road following the north bank of the Wabash River from Fort Wayne to Logansport where it intersected with the Michigan Road.  Here the road crossed to the south bank. During the early years, the crossing was made by fording the river between the present-day bridges now designated as Indiana Highway 29 and Indiana 25. Between Logansport and Lafayette the road continued west through a town named “Tiptonsport.”  A promising river valley village, it was named for John Tipton who had served under William Henry Harrison at the Battle of Tippecanoe in 1811.  Tipton rose to the rank of major in 1812 and by 1822 became a Major General.  During 1820, while serving in the State legislature, he was appointed to the committee that located Indianapolis as Indiana’s capital, and he went on to represent Indiana in 1821 helping to set the Indiana’s boundary with Illinois.

Obviously, Tipton has had a lasting influence on much of Indiana and especially on Allen County when it was formed in December 1823. Bert Griswold wrote in his 1917 history, “the name of Allen was suggested by General John Tipton who was an admirer of Colonel John Allen, the gallant Kentuckian who, after the relief of Fort Wayne in 1812 lost his life at the battle of the River Raisin, in Michigan south of Detroit.”
As noted, Tipton was the Indian Agent in Fort Wayne first assigned to the position in 1823 serving in that capacity until 1828 later moving the agency’s location. Soon he was being eyed for higher office in Washington DC.  During the years 1832 to 1839 Tipton served as a U.S. Senator advocating for a harbor at the mouth of Trail Creek but lost to those in favor of it at the mouth of the Chicago River.  Had Tipton won his point, Chicago today might be in Indiana near the site of present-day Michigan City.

Several sites have been named for John Tipton in Indiana, a township in Cass County, Tipton County and its county seat as well.  One forgotten village named Tiptonsport was where the early road from Fort Wayne to Terre Haute passed.  As a town, Tiptonsport succeeded for a time and was in competition to become the county seat of Carroll County before Delphi won the designation. However promising, the community of Tiptonsport vanished from the map. During the 1840s the Wabash & Erie Canal route followed the Wabash River valley ignoring the town located on the south side of the river.  
By selecting a new route across the river on the north side, a new village emerged along the canal at a lock site. It took the name New Franklin. Once platted, it populated quickly and mostly by the businesses from nearby Tiptonsport.  However, when the canal went out of business in the 1870s, New Franklin went out of business too and no longer exists.  For community developers it is a strong reminder that a place name usually takes a backseat to transportation access. When Tipton surveyed the Indiana Illinois line in 1821 he described the village of Chicago consisting of about nine or ten houses.  A port on Lake Michigan, Illinois & Michigan Canal and railroads certainly has had an affect on the growth of that-then Tiptonsport-sized settlement of the 1820s.


Allen County Historian Tom Castaldi© is author of the Wabash & Erie Canal Notebook series; hosts “On the Heritage Trail” which is broadcast Mondays on 89.1 fm WBOI; and “Historia Nostra” heard on Redeemer Radio 106.3 fm.  Enjoy his previously published columns on the History Center’s blog “Our Stories” at historycenterfw.blogspot.com.

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